WILLIAMS beats Davenport for third straight Pilot Pen title

Saturday, August 25th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) _ Tuning up to defend her U.S. Open title, Venus Williams beat Lindsay Davenport 7-6 (6), 6-4 Saturday to win the Pilot Pen tournament for the third straight year.

``I hate to lose. I guess I don't like going into the Open with a loss,'' Williams said. ``I manage to play my best here.''

She is the first woman with three consecutive titles at this 34-year-old tournament, formerly known as the U.S. Hardcourt Championships.

Williams also beat Davenport in straight sets in the 1999 Pilot Pen final.

``She's got a great serve so it's hard to really get on the offensive from the beginning,'' the top-seeded Davenport said. ``She can run down balls. You think you have her on the defensive and she comes up with a great shot.''

They traded breaks to open the match then held serve into the tiebreaker.

Williams, seeded third, battled back from 1-3 in the tiebreaker, closing it by hitting back-to-back winners.

Davenport had her chances in the second set, leading 4-3 and holding two break points. But Williams won the next four points, including a 102 mph ace, to tie the set 4-4.

Williams broke Davenport in the next game, winning it at the net with a backhander off a Davenport drop shot.

Williams served out for the match and ran down what appeared to be passing shot from Davenport, hitting a forehand winner to close out the 85-minute match.

``She had a great passing shot,'' Williams said. ``If it wasn't for my height and my one inch extra on my racket, I wouldn't have got that ball.''

Williams was coming off a marathon day of tennis, playing a total of 52 games in the quarterfinals and semifinals on Friday.

She beat Justine Henin in three sets in the afternoon, then defeated Jennifer Capriati, the No. 2 seeded player, in straight sets. The quarterfinal against Henin was postponed by rain Thursday night.

Davenport, in contrast, had two days of rest. She won her semifinal in a walkover when Kim Clijsters pulled out because of a leg injury.

Davenport wondered aloud if the layoff hurt.

``Not playing, ideally, is not the best situation for myself,'' Davenport said. ``Two days isn't that long but when you're in the flow of the tournament it certainly helps to keep it going.''

Williams faced three top-10 players en route to the title here, a good warmup before the U.S. Open, which starts Monday.

``This week was very tough with all the top players here,'' Williams said. ``Usually I meet a top player in the final or semi, but not every match.''